“Passengers” stars out as an interesting science fiction fable, but then turns into a formula romance and turns into a disaster movie in the final act. Put it all together and it’s a bit of a mess, but thanks to the always charming Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, it’s a mess that’s kinda worth watching.
In the far-off future the spaceship Avalon is taking 5,000 passengers to a new home across the stars. It’s a long trip, so everyone — including the crew — are sleeping it off in cryogenic tubes.
When the Avalon is hit by an asteroid (0r is it a meteor? is there a difference?), it sets off a series of malfunctions. One of which is the premature opening of the cryo-tube holding mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). Jim finds himself alone on this huge spaceship a good 90 years before its scheduled arrival.
Unable to fix his sleeping tube, unable to access the main bridge, and unable to contact anyone back home (he sends a message but it will take decades for it to reach Earth), Jim settles in to make the best of the rest of his life.
It’s not such a bad life. The Avalon has been set up like a luxury cruise ship, complete with gym, pool, theater, restaurants and a bar (the passengers were supposed to wake up a few months before landing so they could enjoy these things). Jim strikes up a friendship with the only other friendly face around — a robotic bartender (Michael Sheen).
After a year, Jim finds he needs more companionship than a robot. He comes across writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) asleep in her tube and falls in love. He agonizes over whether or not to wake her up, but ultimately loneliness gets the best of him.
He tells her their pods mysteriously malfunctioned. She has trouble adjusting, but eventually she, too, decides to make the best of it. This leads to them falling in love and just at the height of their happiness — you guessed it: She finds out the truth.
And just when you think things couldn’t get worse, crew member Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne) wakes up to deliver some much-needed exposition. The Avalon is falling apart and unless the former lovers can work together they are all going down with the ship.
On the plus side, “Passengers” features some nice special effects, spectacular images, a compelling setup and an engaging cast. It’s bogged down by a by-the-numbers romance, a handful of plot holes, and a predictable, near-explosive ending.